I felt the stick of dried milk on my elbow, and I had bite marks on my shoulder from my curious and teething toddler’s last embrace.
The words being thrown around my kitchen table bit down even deeper than those new little teeth.
My ears were stinging with it – not just with the noise, though it had gotten quite loud, but with the dissonance of sharp arguments and overly enthusiastic tattling and defiant disrespect. My disgust with it all was apparent on my furrowed brow, and it only made my little ones agog to load me up to the brim and see what spilled out.
It was one of our last days of summer, right before starting back to school last week — I was eager to love it. Anxious to soak it up. Desperate for slow. Staunchly committed to having fun together.
But my children have this innocently prodigious way of stripping me right down to the bare bones of myself, where I can only hope some grace and Jesus spills out of my weakness, instead of the repugnance I feel on my skin.
Perhaps you can relate, friend?
Someone was mad at me and wouldn’t tell me why. Another one didn’t like any of the ideas, and didn’t want to go anywhere. Another had packed the bags and lined the shoes and was waiting at the door for some grand adventure. Oh, and everyone was hungry, of course, though breakfast had yet to be cleared. And an overwhelmed and very upset child screamed at me one too many times about how I just don’t get it and I don’t even care, and finally all I could muster in response was a handful of tears.
These are the broken moments of which I am sometimes so very afraid. It’s funny how I don’t want to show them my weakness – I hold it back like some secret Kryptonite, as if my children are the enemy, and to reveal it would surely be the death of me.
But there’s this beauty in the broken place. I didn’t mean to go there, and I won’t hurry back, but when we break, there’s a beautiful thing that can happen…
When we break through to the raw place, instead of covering it up with anger or bitterness, we see the true longings of our heart. When we break, there is a thing ready to be healed. When we break, walls come down and we bust open to mercy. When we break, we become soft. And though a soft heart is more easily wounded, it is also more ready to love and receive love, forgive and receive forgiveness, delight and be delighted in.
And knowing our need allows us the receive the healing touch of Christ, who said ”It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…”
This broken moment last week gave my children the opportunity to see that their words affect me and were fracturing our relationship — it invited them to look around and see who else was affected. They wanted to stop and reevaluate how the words they were using with their most important people. We had a chance to recognize that we need help to love one another better, and it left them looking for the Source of Love.
I stooped low. We huddled up. We prayed for a fresh start. We gave and received grace. God met us. And it was sweet.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34: 18). None of us want heartbreak, disappointment, overwhelm. None of us go looking for something to crush our spirit. And yet, time and again these are the places where God meets me.
This crushing moment led us to the throne of grace.
I’m not saying that you should cry in front of your children, as a method of showing them their need for Jesus. No. We have a responsibility to remain steady and consistent, and mostly predictable, to provide peace and stability for our children.
And yet, in our weakness, Christ is strong. So let’s also not be afraid of being in over our heads. Let’s not be afraid to admit to the Lord and to each other, mamas, when our day has nearly flattened us.
Let’s lean our pain, our struggle, our weariness into the chest of God, that He might wrap us in a healing embrace. And when we fail… let’s trust God with the hearts of our children, too. I was afraid that my accidental tears may have burdened them, but as we gave God our broken morning, He exchanged it for joy.
We don’t have to feign strength when we know the Source. We are free to draw close and honest to the heart of God, with our children… to pray gently for them when they are struggling to use kind words, to shepherd them when they have failed to disobey, to apologize to them when we’ve been wrong, and we can usher in to watch God’s healing work.
When our heart fails within us, may we gather up the presence of God as our portion, our strength. (Psalm 73: 26)
When we are weary, may we climb into the lap of our Father God, trusting that he can give strength to our hearts, and renewal to our bodies. (Isaiah 40: 29, Matthew 11: 28)
When we are hopeless, and fear that nothing we are doing will amount to anything, may we place our hope in the Lord. May we soar on wings like eagles, tireless and full of life. (Isaiah 40: 31)
When we long to just be better, stronger, more whole…may we hear God say to our hearts “My grace is sufficient.” May we boast in our weakness, that Christ’s power may be great in us. (2 Corinthians 12: 9)
Sometimes I put too much weight on keeping it “together” with my kids. Steadiness, consistency is a big deal in parenting. I’m a believer in it, and I fight for it daily. But it’s not THE thing. I’m tempted to become robotic when I’m trying to muster up patience, and avoid yelling.
But today, I’m proclaiming out loud that the thing I want most is to be on my knees before Christ himself. I’d rather be soft than cold. I’d rather be accessible then impenetrable. I’d rather exhibit heartbreak than calculated control.
Openness requires faith because it leaves us vulnerable. It requires faith that God’s grace is enough when we let our hearts be hurt.
But openness can lead us to genuine need and true dependence on the Lord. It can leads us to authentic heart connection with our God and with our children. We have an opportunity to draw close. We have an opportunity to pray. And our children have an opportunity to feel our veracious and loving investment in their hearts and our relationship with them.
Today, I’m choosing to be unafraid of my weakness. Today, I’m choosing to trust that God’s mercy can cover my failure, my disappointment, my inadequacy.
I’m choosing to believe that I can let my walls of fear and self-protection come down, and take up the shield of faith, as the only defense I need. (Ephesians 6: 16)
Psalm 73: 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Habbakuk 3: 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
2 Corinthians 12: 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.